As a young person living in the Rhymney valley, I know how important the steel industry is to Wales. Generations of families have made high quality steel used in everything from cars to food packaging to bridges.
My father works for Tata. As do I, and my grandfather worked at the steelworks before us.
I also know how important it is for the future of all of us that there is a sustainable solution to our climate crisis. We must reach the net-zero target to protect our planet and our futures. The climate crisis is real, and it is urgent.
For both these reasons, green steel is absolutely critical to our future economy. It will fuel the green industrial revolution, being used in everything from electric cars to wind turbines and generators. It is a strategic industry for our infrastructure and our manufacturing.
Any loss of primary steelmaking capacity is not a green steel plan, and would not reduce overall emissions.
It is a false economy for the UK to import steel from abroad for our public infrastructure. Yes the carbon cost of manufacturing it isn’t counted towards the U.K.’s balance sheet, but the carbon cost of transporting steel across the world is high. That’s not even considering the differences in environmental standards between the steelmaking itself.
If we don’t make steel here in Wales but import it, we’re just outsourcing the damage to others and not making a real effort to fight climate change.
The Welsh Assembly has already set out guidelines for procurement, ensuring that environmental concerns are considered when making decisions about steel purchasing.
More can be done to encourage the use of steel from the UK in public procurement by weighing up social factors like good jobs as well as environmental factors such as the emissions generated when transporting steel.
There are also creative solutions which would help to support the Welsh steel industry. What if, for example, steel was marked based on how environmentally friendly it was just as our washing machines and fridges are now?
This would help procurers to make sensible decisions about the carbon costs of the steel they use. Employers across the region have told us they would support this kind of model.
At Tata we’re already bringing in a CO2 surcharge added to every tonne of material sold which is invested in reducing the industry’s net carbon emissions.
Big solutions are also needed to help the sector to decarbonise.
Action must be taken reduce the energy costs that are facing the Welsh steel industry. These energy costs are making it hard for the industry and are counterproductive as all of the viable low carbon solutions to steelmaking require more electricity than we use today.
We must both reduce emissions and protect jobs. My colleagues in the Welsh steel industry are among the best in the world – protecting jobs in this sector is vital to all of our livelihoods.
Though we know that there will be change in the steel industry as it evolves to meet the challenge of decarbonisation, job losses should not be the price of this change.
Steelworkers must be supported with reskilling and upskilling opportunities and empowered to keep working in the sector as it evolves over the next decades.
If we get this right people in Port Talbot will work in the steel industry for generations to come, and we will save our planet for future generations.
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